The blog.


Ibrahim Mahama presents a portrait of Ghana at his first exhibition in London

The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 29, has joined White Cube in London. He is the first artist born and based in Africa signed by the gallery. His arrival follows the departure of the British duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, who left White Cube earlier this month after 20 years with the gallery to join Blain Southern, and shows the continuing internationalisation of the White Cube roster.

The memory of objects

Mahama’s debut exhibition at White Cube, and his first solo show in the UK, opened to the public on 28th February. It includes five wall hangings made from the jute sacks which are used to transport goods in Ghana. Their history illustrates the complex trade networks of the global economy and post-independence Ghana.

Made in Bangladesh and India, the sacks are imported to Ghana and used to move cocoa beans, one of

Ibrahim Mahama, Crop Estate (2016) (Image: © the artist. Photo © White Cube (George Darrell))

the country’s leading exports, to the ships which will transport them to international markets. Because cocoa beans are a fragile luxury export, the sacks will move the product first and only once. They are then used multiple times to take crops such as rice, millet and maize around the country for domestic consumption. Finally, they are used to shift coal. Mahama and his collaborators acquire the sacks at the end of their working life, sewing them together to create massive tapestries which the artist has draped over buildings in Ghana such as theatres, museums, luxury apartments, and social housing projects, among others, and abroad (for the 2015 Venice Biennale he covered two external walls of the Arsenale with 300-metre-long hangings).

On some of the wall pieces at White Cube, Mahama has also added fragments of the tarpaulin which is first used to cover food transport trucks in Ghana and then recycled to protect metal objects such as engines. In another tapestry he has added discarded leather seat covers from trains, alluding to the deterioration of the railways in post-independence Ghana.

“I’m interested in looking at the artistic and political implications of these materials. What happens when you pick several different objects from different places with specific histories and memories and put them together to form a new object?” Mahama asks.

Shoe repairmen

Another cycle of work focusses on the wooden boxes used by shoe repairmen in Ghana to hold their tools. Working with a team of collaborators around the country, Mahama has assembled thousands of these boxes, exchanging them for new ones built by his assistants. At White Cube, Mahama has constructed a massive wall out of these boxes, carefully slotting them together with no external supports. Every time the piece is dismantled and re-assembled elsewhere, its “composition will change,” explains the artist.

Ibrahim Mahama, Diesel Room. Non Orientable Nkansa. Sekondi Locomotive station 1901-2030 (2016) (Image: © Ibrahim Mahama Photo: Ibrahim Mahama)

The boxes contain a multitude of objects such as the original tools used to repair shoes and the slippers worn by the repairmen to do their work as well as new objects inserted by Mahama’s assistants, for example, old issues of the Economist magazine. “The wall contains a narrative of post-independence society,” explains the artist, and deals with issues such as political crises and gentrification: many of the boxes were originally made with materials found on building sites or in houses slated for demolition to make way for new developments. “A lot of residues come out of those spaces,” says the artist.

“The boxes represent the failure of a system, a failure we haven’t yet acknowledged. The structures of global capitalism shift things such as the cosmopolitan life of the city and the structures that are built around it.” Now they have a new life as a work of art in a high-end gallery. “The potential of these structures when you look at them beyond the chaos and the crisis is also interesting,” says the artist.

Also on display are archival photographs of a paint factory set up by the Ghanaian State, then privatised

Ibrahim Mahama, Exchange Exchanger (still), (2013-16) (Image:
© the artist. Courtesy White Cube)

in the 1990s, and later abandoned. Mahama found the images in the factory when he set up a studio there for the shoe box project. Also at White Cube, a two-screen film shows the installation of Mahama’s massive jute-sack tapestries on buildings such as the National Theatre in Accra. Drone footage surveys the sites from above while hand-held cameras follow Mahama’s collaborators as they laboriously carry the massive objects up to the roof.

This ongoing project has often been compared to the work of “wrap” artist Christo. But, Mahama finds the comparison lazy. “You can’t reduce art just to aesthetics and what you see. There is a deeper, political meaning to it.”

Ibrahim Mahama: Fragments is at White Cube Bermondsey until 13 April

Article via The Art Newspaper

Waterforeveryone launches community platform to learn, share, connect and empower innovative solutions

The online-based community platform Waterforeveryone  has been officially launched today. This unique social-entrepreneurship portal allows individuals and organizations, both private and public, to create a profile free of charge. It enables its members to connect, share knowledge and expertise, support existing concrete initiatives and create new ones, promote innovative solutions, as well as contribute to the online resource center by posting articles, news, research findings etc. The portal’s crowdfunding mechanism enables all members to run fundraising campaigns for their initiatives to bring sustainable solutions tackling water related issues and promoting collaboration across countries and regions.

Waterforeveryone is a non-profit organization registered in Switzerland, developed by a multi-disciplinary group of professionals that aims to alter the harrowing statistics of lack of clean water available to millions of people across the planet.

With more than 10% of the world population not having access to safe, drinkable water, there is more we can do to help alleviate this statistic. We strongly believe that every step counts to find out effective and sustainable local solutions for this global challenge,” said Mathieu Lamolle, founder of Waterforeveryone. “The purpose of this community platform is to educate while encouraging collaborations for a more efficient end goal. Besides, Waterforeveryone will directly contribute to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: SDG3 (Good health and well-being), SDG6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG11 (Sustainable cities and communities), SDG12 (Responsible consumption and production), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals),” he added.

We invite everyone to join the global community to spur innovation, knowledge and successful projects. We strongly believe that every step counts and so does every drop: your support will contribute to help thousands, if not millions of people. Registration to Waterforeveryone is completely free.

Visit here for more information:

Website: https://www.waterforeveryone.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Supportersofwaterforeveryone/

U.S native gave up everything to serve the Children of Ghana

At B.A.S.I.C.S. International school here, students are gathering for afternoon “Harambee,” a self-affirming session of song and dance.

“Jump in! Jump out! Introduce yourself!” the first song goes. “There’s Crystal! And she loves to read and write!”

They clap in rhythm to a contagious melody, with the school’s founder, Brooklyn native Patricia Wilkins, swaying in their circle.
“Everybody do the freedom rumble! Everybody do the freedom rumble! I wish I knew how it feels to be free! Wish I could break all the chains holding me!”

It’s been 17 years since Wilkins arrived in Ghana from Queens, N.Y., where at 35, she jettisoned most of her possessions and boarded a plane to answer what she believed to be a calling to do missionary work in Africa.

“I was very involved in the United Methodist Church, and had just served a year doing missionary work at an orphanage in Russia,” says this African-American woman, who at the time was making good money as a fashion merchandiser.

“After Russia, I wanted to come to Africa, and they were like, ‘We’re not sending any missionaries to Africa.’ I was like, ‘Why not? Africa needs us.’ They said there was no funding for it. So I was like, ‘Alright, well, I’m going to come myself,’ ” Wilkins recounts.

She started out volunteering at schools here and cajoling family and friends in the U.S. to sponsor a child’s education. That turned in to three schools of her own.

The first — her headquarters here in this overpopulated fishing village — opened in 2010. Today, B.A.S.I.C.S. is a recognized NGO here, tackling illiteracy and poverty among extreme poor who live off less than $1.25 a day.

“We’re a nonprofit organization providing access to education to children being deprived due to child labor, child trafficking, poverty, lack of parental care. We take dropouts, and children who have never been to school. We transition them back into mainstream education,” Wilkins says. “We also run an after-school program, a girl’s boarding house, a feeding center . . .” The list goes on.

And a developing country is hard terrain. Atop the devastating poverty, plumbing and electricity challenges abound. To work here takes real commitment.

Dependent on funding from government, corporate and individual contributions, B.A.S.I.C.S. was adopted by Ghana’s Israeli Embassy, which has provided equipment, secured activity venues, and run a music education workshop for students. Israeli Ambassador Ami Mehl is a staunch advocate within Accra’s diplomatic community, bringing B.A.S.I.C.S before other foreign embassies to seek further support.

“I was volunteering at a school in Chorkor when I started seeing kids on the streets that weren’t going to school. I decided I’d sponsor a child” to go to that school, she recalls. “It was right after 9/11. I had about four children I was trying to sponsor, and sent emails to all my friends and family, saying, ‘Help me sponsor these kids.’ I got an overwhelming response. . . . People just wanted to do something to help.

She opened her first school in 2004. And the sponsorships have kept coming.

“I went from five kids to 12 after 9/11. We had 50 kids that year, and 100 the next year. We’ve sponsored over 1,000 kids to date.

“When I first came, I thought maybe six months I would be here. Six months then turned into 16.”

Source: www.chicagosuntimes.com

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

Ghanaian bishops: Avoid vices to keep Ghana as ‘Star of Africa’

In preparation for Ghana’s 60th anniversary celebration March 6, members of the nation’s bishops called on Ghanaians to continue to make the nation truly the “Star of Africa,” a symbol of hope for Africa’s total liberation.

The bishops also announced Ghana would hold a national eucharistic congress August. 7-13.

“God has been good to us in these six decades. Let us continue to thank God for our heritage and ask for his forgiveness where we have failed, one and all, in our various vocations and professions to contribute to making Ghana what God is calling us to,” the bishops said.

Ghana became independent from Great Britain March 6, 1957.

In a pastoral letter to Ghanaians issued February 23, the bishops called on Ghanaians to work hard, be honest and just in all they do, and to do away with all forms of corruption and immorality.

The bishops said avoiding these vices was the only way for Ghanaians to “enjoy God’s abundant blessings and favors on our homeland.”

If truly, God’s laws have been our “protection and shield,” then Ghanaians must eschew all those vices that have engulfed society, such as armed robbery, the illegal use and sale of narcotics, bribery and corruption, they said.

The bishops said even though Ghana might not have achieved all of its expectations and goals as it marks 60 years, it had made significant progress.

“Even though our democratic forward-march has suffered some political challenges and derailment in the past, God has spared us the worst, namely civil strife, wars,” they said.

 Source: Cruxnow.com
@Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

GET THE PERFECT CARNIVAL QUEEN BODY….TIPS FROM BRAZILIAN FITNESS EXPERT

It’s February so it’s carnival time, as Rio de Janeiro gears up for 2017’s spectacular carnival, long-time Rio procession dancer and Notthinghill Carnival Queen, Juliana Campos, explains how she works her Brazilian booty to keep fit for the fiesta!

Exercise coach and fitness expert Juliana says, “You don’t need a gym and fancy equipment to raise your metabolism, burn fat and tone. Doing a workout at home with household objects and your favourite music can build that perfectly toned Brazilian figure”.

 

WARM UP

This warm up’s fun! Choose some great music – preferably with a Brazilian drumbeat – and dance for 15 minutes. Then do 100 star jumps.

CARDIO RESISTANCE

SOFA STEPS: Make the sofa your best friend, but for exercise, not to lounge about on! Holding a litre bottle of water in each hand, step up onto the sofa and lift the bottles of over your head. When you step down, go into the squat position, and repeat the whole procedure 3 x 10. Finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

CHAIR PRESS UPS: Place a chair in front of you with its back securely flush with the wall.  Then placing your hands the width of the chair seat and assume the press position, and press up and down 3 x 10. Again, finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBING: Either on a chair or on the floor, keep your hands at shoulder-width. Then, with a straight back and legs, bring your right knee towards your right elbow, and then the same with your left, just as if you’re climbing a mountain. Repeat 3 x 20, and finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

CHAIR SQUATS: Placing a chair behind you, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms parallel to the floor at shoulder level. Sit down and get up again, all the time keeping that straight back. To get up, you should use your quads and your abs – not your back. 3 x 10 and finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

WALKING LUNGES: Walk like a duck around your house, with your knees almost touching the floor. Keeping your spine very straight, make sure you do 30 lunges with each leg. Finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

KICK-OUT SQUATS: Squat down with your feet hip width apart and kick back with your right leg, and then the left. Repeat 3 x 10 and – you’ve guessed it! – finish with 20 seconds of star jumps.

STRETCH: Always end your workout by stretching all your muscles properly!

DIET TIPS

Juliana is keen to stress that keeping a Carnival-Queen body isn’t all about exercise – think about what you eat too.

Before your workout, have a black coffee with a teaspoonful of coconut oil stirred into it. This will speed up your metabolism and do wonders for your workout.Drink lots of water while you’re training – you need to keep hydrated as well as flush out waste products.

Eat light, lean and clean – salads with plenty of olive oil for example. Fish is great, but Juliana’s mantra is “meat’s a treat for twice a week”. Avoid junk food, butter, fried food and sugary drinks.When you go out for dinner, politely ask the waiter / chef that you like your food light, lean and clean. That means no butter, no salt, lemon on the side, and a little bowl of olive oil for flavor. Sometimes it’s good to relax a bit, and the weekends are your ‘cheat days’! Have a little of what you fancy – a pizza or burger for example – but no more than half a portion. Try Juliana’s favorite ‘Acai in the Bowl’. High in antioxidants, it’s made with pieces of banana and tastes like ice cream. Please see here for the link to her recipe. Who said getting your body ready for the Carnival had to be a punishment!Press, Enquiries & High-Res Images

 

President Nana Akufo Addo’s State of the Nation Address

MESSAGE ON THE STATE OF THE NATION  BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC, NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, ON THE OCCASION OF THE STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT ON  TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2017.

Mr. Speaker,

It is good to be back here again in this Chamber, where I spent some 12 memorable years as a Member of Parliament. I recollect with nostalgia the vigorous debates of my days here as a Minority MP, and I have very fond memories of being on the Majority side also.

I can see some old faces from my first days here – like the 2nd Deputy Speaker, Hon. Alban Bagbin, whom I came to meet in the House in 1997, and who became a good friend of mine; and Hon Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader, with whom I entered Parliament on the same side, at the same time.

On December 7th, 2016, the Ghanaian people went to the polls, and voted decisively for change. As a result, today, I am here again in this House, this time as President of the Republic, having secured an emphatic, electoral victory.

Mr. Speaker, we have to thank God for His Grace and Favour for a peaceful and smooth transfer of power, in which Ghanaians rose to the occasion, and made our nation the object of world admiration. The Ghanaian people are to be commended for their strong attachment to the principles of democratic accountability.

I would like to take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to express my sincere appreciation to my predecessor, President John Mahama, for his leadership and his role in the transition. His conduct has been a credit to our nation.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see the presence in this House of two other former Presidents of the Republic, their Excellencies Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor. I am in the enviable position of being the first Ghanaian leader to be able to draw on the experiences of three living, former Presidents. This should, definitely, enrich my tenure of office.

Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your unanimous election to preside over the affairs of this House. It is a fitting acknowledgement of your distinguished service to our nation. I congratulate also your deputies on their appointments, the 1st Deputy Speaker, a respected member of the House, Hon. Joe Osei Wusu, and 2nd Deputy Speaker, the veteran legislator, Hon. Alban Bagbin. I commend also the Majority Leader, my contemporary in this House, who can now put his extensive experience of Parliament to use as Leader of the House and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. My compliments go, too, to the new Minority Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, who announced himself on the national stage when he came here in my last term in the House. It is clear that he has an important future in Ghanaian politics. I want to assure him and the leadership of the House, on both sides, that I will co-operate fully with Parliament to enhance the governance of our nation to be able to do the business of Ghana effectively.

Mr. Speaker, I use this occasion to commend the Electoral Commission and its Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, for the conduct of our recent elections, which has received domestic and international acclaim. In the coming years, I hope that our electoral processes will become even more robust, so that free and fair elections become automatic parts of our democratic culture.

Mr. Speaker, certain incidents occurred during the transition period that are matters of concern to me, and should be to every Ghanaian, as they marred an otherwise dignified and successful transition. Wrongdoing has no political colour, and I do not subscribe to the lawlessness of political party supporters simply because their party has been elected into office.

Mr. Speaker, when those incidents began, I instructed the then Inspector General of Police, John Kudalor, to apply the law, irrespective of political affiliation, to all lawbreakers. This instruction was also carried on to his successor, David Asante Appeatu. Both of them acted upon it, which helped to bring the situation under control.

It appears these events were predicated on some concept of equalisation, as they happened in 2009, and were repeated again in 2017. I condemn all such conduct, and I call on all political parties, especially the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress, to ensure that this is the last time such undignified acts occur during our periods of transition.

Mr. Speaker, I come before you, today, in fulfilment of the constitutional obligation that the President of the Republic gives a message to Parliament on the state of the nation at the beginning of Parliament’s session.

Since my inauguration some six weeks ago as president of our country, I have set to work, putting into place the members of the team who will help me govern.

I have heard it said that I am behaving like a man in a hurry. Mr. Speaker, I am, indeed, in a hurry, I am in a great hurry. The times, in which we live, demand that we, all, be in a hurry to deal with the problems we face.

I am grateful, therefore, to the Honourable House for the expeditious manner in which my ministerial nominees have been vetted and approved, thus far. I look forward to the House dealing with the rest of the nominees I send, in an equally fast and efficient manner.

Now that the processes for the composition of the Council of State have been completed, I shall inaugurate the Council this week, which will enable me to proceed rapidly with the appointments that need to be done in consultation with the Council. The full complement of appointments should be in place by the end of March.

Mr. Speaker, the conditions in our country demand that government machinery functions efficiently and at full force, and that nothing is left on autopilot. The conditions demand that all of us, each and every one of us, tackle every task before us with speed and dedication.

Mr Speaker, to give a fair account of the state of our nation, I have to give an account of the state of our economy, of our governance and of our national culture and attitudes. This account will highlight some of the fundamental elements of the situation, and will not pretend to be a detailed, sectoral analysis of our condition. I leave that to the budget statement, to be delivered in ten days time.

Mr. Speaker, I say nothing new or dramatic, when I tell this Honourable House that the economy of our country is in a bad way. After all, in the run-up to the recent elections, I said so, often and loudly. Some six weeks after taking over the reins of government, it gives me no pleasure to have to say that our worst fears have been confirmed, plus a few additional, unpleasant surprises as well.

Mr Speaker, many get quite lost when economists start rattling figures and statistics. I will try not to bore you with a lot of figures, but I hope you will bear with me as I have to put certain essential facts before our country.

You would recall that, notwithstanding the fact that the previous government had more than ten times the financial resources than any other government since independence, its management of our economy in the run up to the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections resulted in a quagmire that necessitated the urgent intervention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2014. The IMF programme negotiated was ostensibly to restore fiscal discipline, debt sustainability and increase economic growth. The previous government promised Ghanaians that the reckless public expenditure that characterized the 2012 election year would not be repeated in 2016.

Mr. Speaker, the promises to the Ghanaian people were, however, not kept. In fact, virtually all the targets under the IMF programme, as at December 2016, have been missed. Fiscal indiscipline, once again, reared its head in the 2016 election year. Total projected expenditure for 2016 was GH¢43.9 billion (26% of GDP), but actual expenditure amounted to GH¢50.3 billion (30.2% of GDP). The full facts of the situation have not been put before the Ghanaian people. It appears, from what we are finding out, that some GH¢7 billion of arrears and outstanding payments circumvented the very public financial management system that was put in place to prevent such occurrences. These expenditures are being currently audited.

Mr. Speaker, at the same time, revenue performance for the year was poor.  The total revenue target for our country was GH¢37.9 billion (22.7% of GDP), but the actual revenue came in at GH¢33.2 billion (19.9% of GDP).

Mr. Speaker, the combination of higher expenditures and lower revenues than projected resulted in a significant increase in the budget deficit for 2016. As compared to a target of 5.3% under the IMF programme, the fiscal deficit for 2016 was 9% of GDP on a cash basis and 10.2% of GDP on a commitment basis (that is on the basis of expenditures undertaken but not yet paid for). It should be recalled that, at the time Ghana entered into the IMF programme to restore fiscal discipline, the fiscal deficit was 10.2% of GDP. It is very clear, therefore, that the objectives set out in the programme have not been achieved.

Mr. Speaker, the increasing fiscal deficits were financed by increased borrowing. As at the beginning of 2009, Ghana’s total debt stock was GH¢9.5 billion. By the end of 2016, the debt stock had ballooned to GH¢122 billion. Ghana’s debt stock now stands at 74% of GDP, after all the previous denials to the contrary. More debt was accumulated by the previous government in the last eight years than all other governments put together since independence!  In fact, 92% of Ghana’s total debt stock was incurred in the last eight years under the previous government. The interest costs on this debt have also increased and will amount to an estimated GH¢14.1 billion in 2017.

Mr. Speaker, the reality of the state Ghana’s public finances today are quite stark. Today, as a result of policy choices, we find ourselves in a situation where Ghana’s total revenue is consumed by three main budgetary lines: wages and salaries, interest payments and amortization and statutory payments. These three items alone account for 99.6% of government revenue. This means that anything else that government has to do outside of these lines will have to be financed by borrowing or aid. After eight years of the previous government, there is practically no fiscal space left. The persistent resort to borrowing for any additional expenditures to meet the aspirations of our people is also not sustainable.  We cannot continue this way with our public finances. I will not allow this economy to collapse under my watch. We will reduce significantly the fiscal deficit this year.

Mr. Speaker, Ghana’s economic growth has also declined dramatically. Notwithstanding the record amount of financial resources at the disposal of the previous government, Ghana’s GDP growth in 2016 (including oil) is estimated at 3.6%. This is the lowest GDP growth in about 23 years.

Mr. Speaker, Ghana’s banking sector has not escaped the economic decline and has become increasingly fragile. Bad loans in the banking sector have risen significantly. Economic and Financial data from the Central Bank show that non-performing loans have risen sharply from 11.2% in May 2015 to 17.3% in December 2016. The recent Asset Quality Review of Banks shows significant vulnerability of banks to current economic conditions, with many exhibiting significant weaknesses.

Mr. Speaker, low growth, rising rate of unemployment, high fiscal deficits, high and rising debt, and increased depreciation of the cedi, high cost of food, housing and utilities and high non-performing loans, amongst others, are symptoms of deeper structural problems that will require a range of reforms, beginning immediately and spanning the short, medium and long terms.  We are going to have to implement some tough, prudent and innovative policies to get out of this financial cul-de sac and rescue this economy, restore fiscal discipline and debt sustainability as well as increase economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me no joy to tell the story of the economy as it is – as we inherited it. Too much time, energy and resources were spent in the past, in my view, without a deliberate, conscious assessment of their impact on jobs, and whether or not we were spending wisely to improve the lives of the people, communities and businesses. But, I was not elected by the overwhelming majority of the Ghanaian people to complain. I was elected to get things done. I was elected to fix what is broken and my government and I are determined to do just that. At the beginning of March, the Minister for Finance will come to this House to lay out in the national budget the details of our economic policy and the clear roadmap that we have laid out for taking the country out of its current predicament and onto a sustainable path of recovery, jobs creation and prosperity. I am absolute in my confidence that we have the programme, the competence, the commitment, and the goodwill of the people to turn things around. By the Grace of God, we will succeed and I believe this House knows it too.

In the immediate term, targeted legislative policy and institutional reforms will have to be undertaken to unleash the suppressed potential of the economy and allow Ghanaian entrepreneurship to rise and thrive, domestically and internationally.

For too many young people, unemployment is sadly the reality of the start to their adult life. For years, for generations, it was assumed and guaranteed in this country that the quality of life of every generation would be an improvement on that of their parents. We are now faced with the phenomenon of parents looking on in frustration as their grown-up children remain at home, without the means to strike an independent life by themselves.

This generation of Ghanaians dares not be the one to reverse this natural trend. We must create the atmosphere that generates jobs. We must boost the confidence of the private sector to invest in the economy.

We must have the courage to start building our future and take the hard decisions that need to be taken to grow our economy. We have no choice but to reduce the budget deficit and cut waste in all sectors of public life. We must complete the formalisation of the economy. The process for a comprehensive national identification system and a property titling system will be completed this year. That will boost confidence in our country and increase investment from nationals and foreigners. Then we will be able to generate jobs.

We must boost the confidence of the private sector to invest in the economy.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the starting point in turning round our fortunes must be with agriculture. Unfortunately, the state of agriculture in our country right now is not good. Farmers are left on their own. It is not surprising, therefore, that food prices are high and we are having to import almost everything we eat, including vegetables from our Sahelian neighbours. And yet, agriculture provides the best opportunity to use modern methods to change the lives of many, within the shortest possible time.

We have to irrigate our lands and equip farmers with the skills needed to make farming a well-paying business. We aim to popularize farming by encouraging many people to take it up as a full or part time activity. A National Campaign, “PLANTING FOR FOOD AND JOBS”, will be launched to stimulate this activity. An amount of 125 million Canadian dollars has been secured from Canada, a friend of our nation, to support the initiative.

This Campaign will be anchored on the pillars that will transform agriculture: the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilizers, the provision of dedicated extension services, a marketing strategy and the use of e-Agriculture.

To initiate the Campaign, the District Assemblies will be tasked to identify and register progressive farmers in each of the 216 districts.

Mr Speaker, for too long our farmers have been left to cope by themselves, without the necessary support from government. For too long, our farmers have been left to the mercy of the vagaries of the weather.

We have decided to embark upon a programme to provide water to enable all-year farming. We are calling it the one-village, one-dam policy. It is a programme that I expect will rapidly get the support of the population, and should help to transform food insecurity in our country.

The three northern regions, in particular, will benefit from the availability of water to enable all-year farming, so that the enforced yearly migration can be minimized and food production become more predictable.

I look forward to an increase in public investment in agriculture, starting from the first budget of my government. We must reverse the unfortunate trend of the past eight years, which saw a regular decrease in public investment in the sector that provides a living for the majority of our people.

Mr Speaker, food processing has been the first step towards industrialization in virtually every country, and it is time for us to take it seriously. Not only will it serve to cut down on the wastage of crops during the high season, it will provide more jobs and expand farming business. Food processing will also save time in the preparation and cooking of our local foods, and there will be better control on the hygiene in the process. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to an exciting time in the agricultural sector.

Mr. Speaker, if I were to ask each one of you in this Chamber, today, to tell me what the number one problem was in your constituency, I suspect there would be a uniform answer: JOBS.

The most critical challenge, inherited by this NPP government, is the very high, unprecedented level of unemployment, particularly among the youth. It is a debilitating and confidence-sapping problem that affects every home. We can argue on what the official rate of unemployment is, but we can all see the desperation of our young people. They want to work, but there are no jobs and some of them are being driven to unacceptable behaviour. We have a veritable time bomb on our hands.

To address this challenge, the government is embarking on one of the most comprehensive programmes for industrial transformation ever to be introduced in our country.

The key elements of this programme are:

  1. restoration and maintenance of a stable macro-economy
  2. monetary and fiscal measures which will lead to a reduction in interest rates and a reduction in the tax burden on enterprises
  3. provision of reliable, affordable power to enterprises and homes
  4. setting up of a stimulus package to support existing Ghanaian industries and improve their competitiveness
  5. implementation of the initiative, through public-private partnerships, to establish at least one industrial enterprise in each of the 216 Districts in the “One District, One Factory” policy
  6. development of strategic anchor initiatives as new pillars of growth for the Ghanaian economy, including the establishment of petrochemical industries; an iron and steel industry; an integrated aluminum industry; the expansion of the domestic production of pharmaceuticals; the establishment of a vehicle assembly and automotive industry; the production of industrial salt; the establishment of garment and textiles enterprises; and the manufacture of machinery, equipment and component parts
  7. establishment of a multi-purpose industrial park in each of the ten regions
  8. implementation of a comprehensive programme for SME development
  9. establishment of an industrial sub-contracting exchange to link large scale companies with SMEs
  10. implementation of an aggressive programme for export development, targeting, primarily, regional and continental markets
  11. enhancement of domestic retail market infrastructure and the active promotion of the marketing and distribution of domestically produced goods
  12. improvement of the business environment through regulatory and other reforms, and
  13. establishment of a permanent consultative forum for public-private sector dialogue.

We are confident that, through these interventions, significant job opportunities will be opened to Ghanaians across the country.

Mr. Speaker, the Takoradi to Paga railway, connecting the Eastern and Western corridors, will be initiated this year to open up our country and provide access to our landlocked neighbours. It will also provide a lot of jobs.

Mr Speaker, probably the most difficult problem, that has dogged this nation in the past five years, has been in the energy sector. This has caused havoc in small, medium and large enterprises. It has disrupted families and businesses and brought many organizations to their knees.

The most obvious manifestation of the energy problem has earned us notoriety in the world, with the entry into Wikipedia and other dictionaries of the word DUMSOR. It is a phenomenon that has blighted our lives, destroyed appliances and collapsed many companies. The attempts by the previous government to resolve the crisis have led to a gargantuan debt overhang in the sector.

We have inherited a heavily indebted energy sector, with the net debt reaching 2.4 billion US dollars as at December 2016. I have to point out the alarming fact that 800 million US dollars of this debt is owed to local banks, which threatens their stability and that of the whole financial sector.  Indeed, the huge indebtedness of the energy sector constitutes the single major hurdle to Ghanaians enjoying reliable and affordable electricity supply.

Mr Speaker, there has been some improvement in the power supply since November last year, but the challenges facing Ghana’s power sector are far from over. The key problem is cost. We produce power from Akosombo at three US cents per kilowatt hour. The marginal price charged for businesses is an effective 42 cents, more than ten times the average tariff in West Africa.

This makes it very difficult to start or run a business here and be competitive. The cost of energy destroys businesses large and small. It is the bane of the vulcanizer, the tailor, the dressmaker and the hairdresser, the carpenter and the wayside fitting mechanic.  It destroys jobs. It compounds poverty. The current state of the energy situation in our country is unsatisfactory.

The problems are enormous, but we must, and we will, confront them.

I am proposing a number of policy interventions.  We will improve on transparency in tariff setting, and introduce a new tariff policy that will reclassify consumer categories in order to protect lifeline and strategic industrial consumers. We will also reduce significantly some of the levies and taxes on the tariffs.

As at the end of 2016, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) had signed 43 Power Purchase Agreements (PPA), whilst a further 23 were under discussion. Government is conducting a review of all the Power Agreements entered into by the previous government in order to prioritise, renegotiate, defer or cancel outright, if necessary, in the national interest.

Overall, we have begun to develop a national electricity masterplan, which will also explore the benefits of listing VRA and GRIDCO on the Stock Exchange.

Mr. Speaker, my government will enforce the procurement law. We will insist on open and competitive bidding for power capacity procurement. This will not only reduce the cost of power projects and ensure value for money, but will also address the problem of unplanned procurement.

Government will encourage increased private sector investment in utility scale solar and wind energy projects, as well as accelerate the development of mini-grid solutions in off-grid and island communities for lighting, irrigation and other economic activities.

We will, consequently, review the Renewable Energy Act to provide further incentives to attract the private sector to invest.

Mr Speaker, the Ghana Compact II programme has officially come into force. Both parties to the Compact, the Governments of Ghana and United States of America, are committed to complying with their obligations. However, the implementation of Ghana’s commitments has faced some challenges due to disagreements between stakeholders, particularly between labour, ECG and the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA).

We need further dialogue on the key issues that have generated these disagreements. We are aware that these discussions should be concluded urgently in order to arrive at the decisions that will allow for its implementation. We expect that all stakeholders will discuss these issues dispassionately and transparently, to ensure that all concerns are adequately addressed.

Mr. Speaker, the success of all our plans and all our aspirations depends on our ability to educate our young people, and provide the opportunity for lifelong education to the adult population. Mr. Speaker, it is not an original statement, but it is a true statement: education is the key; education holds the key to the rapid development of our country; it holds the key to a better understanding and accommodation with our environment; it equips us with the skills required to deal with the world; education holds the key to the prosperous and happy Ghana we all want and deserve.

Luckily, there is consensus amongst us on the need to provide quality education to all of Ghana’s children. If I am in a hurry, I am in a hurry to ensure that every child born in this country attends school from Kindergarten to Senior High School; in other words, that is the basic education that each child is required to receive. We intend to reform the basic school curricula with emphasis on literacy, numeracy and creative skills.

And just in case there is anyone left in this country who has not heard  yet, Free SHS starts with the 2017/2018 entrants into the public SHS.

We shall embark upon a vigorous expansion and re-equipping of Technical, Vocational and Agricultural schools and align all TVAET under the Ministry of Education to ensure standardization.

The teaching of mathematics and science will take pride of place in all schools, as we aim to make understanding of the scientific basis of life a central plank in our schools. We will, thus, make the use of ICT a central feature of our national life.

My government shall place teachers at the centre of quality education, and encourage professionalism among them. There will have to be some legislative reforms to ease some of the bottlenecks at the district level of supervision.

By the way, teacher trainee allowances will be restored when the Minister of Finance comes to read the budget. We keep our promises, just as we shall ensure that our sports development is hinged on the revival of school sports.

Mr. Speaker, there has been far too much tension in the education sector. It is in everyone’s interest that the school experience is a happy one for children, teachers and parents alike. The happy and skilled population that will drive the path to development starts at school. We aim to provide the key to prosperity in our schools.

Mr. Speaker, we have to be healthy if we are to make a success of the plans and aspirations we have. The National Health Insurance Scheme remains the best option we have devised to ensure that as many people as possible have access to health care in our clinics and hospitals. The scheme is not in a good state, and there are too many providers that are owed money. They are threatening to opt out and stop offering their services to the most vulnerable in our society. We shall restore the National Health Insurance Scheme to good health.

And yes, the Minister for Finance will restore the allowances to trainee nurses in the budget.

Mr. Speaker, government will work with Parliament to pass the Affirmative Action Bill to increase women’s involvement in decision making at all levels, and enable us achieve our current objective of 30 per cent  participation of women in public appointments.

Mr. Speaker, the time has come to enforce the Disability Act and ensure its compliance, which will begin with access to public buildings for the physically challenged. The Minister for Local Government will also see to the implementation of the District Integrated Social Services programme for children, families and vulnerable adults.

Mr. Speaker, our people can only prosper and flourish in an atmosphere of peace and security. Safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation is critical for our progress.

We will improve the state of combat readiness of our armed forces by improving the logistical infrastructure, and improve the welfare of service men and women and also of veterans. Our armed forces remain one of the best-organized and most professional in Africa.

Mr. Speaker, I bring you greetings from The Gambia, where I was a guest last weekend at the inauguration ceremony of President Adama Barrow. Ghana should always take its membership of ECOWAS seriously, as its viability advances our national interest.

One of the first issues that came to my attention, as soon as I assumed office, was the request from ECOWAS to send a military contingent from Ghana, as part of the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) to resolve the post-electoral impasse in that country. Senegal was to provide 3,150; Nigeria 509; and Ghana 210 troops. I assented to the request as it involved large issues of regional stability, and the preservation of democracy and rule of law in a member state. Ghana sent 208 troops. The Mission succeeded in creating the necessary environment for the rule of law to be maintained, and for the rightful transfer of authority to the newly elected President. I saw with my own eyes how popular that event has been in the Gambia; and how popular is the ECOWAS mission.

Consequently, ECOWAS has now put forward a new mandate which involves reducing the force to one of 500 soldiers, intended to be a stabilisation force. As from yesterday, February 20, Senegal will provide 250, Nigeria 200 and Ghana 50 troops in the force.

Presently about 3,000 Ghanaian soldiers are involved in peace keeping operations around the globe. We need to do more to keep their morale high and empower them. We have decided that they should be paid their allowances at post, and not on their return. I am glad to say that this new regime of payment has been applied to the case of The Gambian deployment.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be able to inform the House that the outstanding arrears of 13 million US dollars for all peacekeeping personnel have been cleared by my government, and the contingents in the Gambia have been paid all their allowances in full.

I have asked the Minister for Defence to come shortly before Parliament and make a statement on the Gambian deployment.

There are serious difficulties facing our armed forces that are not unlike those facing other parts of our public sector. Overcrowded and inappropriate accommodation for personnel, inability to pay food and utility bills, and threats from providers to cut supplies; these are the everyday stories in all departments and our armed forces face the same problems. It is a regrettable state of affairs that will not continue under my administration.

Mr. Speaker, the police are the first line of security and protection for citizens. We must have an efficient police service that has the confidence and support of the people. I am determined to give whatever support is required from government to ensure that we have the service that the people of Ghana deserve. We must get a more professional police service, where recruitment and training practices are of acceptable international standards. We shall continue recruitment into the police service, with the aim of meeting the U.N ratio of 1 police officer to 500 civilians, and also ensuring gender equity.

All of us are agreed on the Ghana we want; a prosperous, united and peaceful country. Some countries have made progress in the economic field and achieved some of the results we desire. I have listened with incredulity, as some amongst us have advocated the harsh methods that appear to have helped some countries achieve rapid progress.

Some, amongst us, seem to be flirting with the concept of authoritarianism and romanticising it, as an acceptable price to pay to achieve rapid development.

Mr. Speaker, I have an unshakable and undying belief in freedom and the democratic process, and in their capacity to inspire rapid development. Development in freedom should remain our moral anchor. That is the Ghanaian way and that is the Akufo-Addo way.

The rule of law should remain our guiding and unbending principle. Those of us in public service should acknowledge that corruption is one of the biggest concerns to the people of Ghana. It is the one subject on which a surprising number of people are willing to tolerate a waiver of due process. This is because, unfortunately, public officials are in danger of losing the confidence of the people in the fight against corruption. There is a perception that all public officials are part of a great scam to defraud the public and that they protect each other. It is in everybody’s interest that the fight against corruption is transparent and has the support of the public.

Mr Speaker, the office of the Special Prosecutor has been shown to work in other places, and I shall be bringing legislation before the House for its rapid establishment. I am satisfied that the Office will be established in a manner consistent with the Constitution. In like manner, I shall propose for legislation amendments to the current asset declaration regime to make it more effective.

Mr Speaker, the people of Ghana have voted for change. All the various arms of government should recognize this strong desire on the part of the people for change. We continue along the path of business as usual at our own risk.

Mr Speaker, my personal belief in and adherence to the concept of the separation of powers is well-known, and I do not intend to interfere in any way in the affairs of Parliament or the Judiciary. But I would be failing in my duty if I failed to say what needs to be said.

Mr Speaker, all three arms of government, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature need to take cognisance of the clear desire of the people of Ghana for change. All three branches must change the way we do things. I ask this Honourable House to take a candid look at itself and consider changing the way it conducts its business, if needs be.

Mr Speaker, there are some areas of our lives in which we can all demonstrate the change for which the people of Ghana have voted: punctuality, sanitation and the care of the environment. Over the years, it has become acceptable practice that official functions invariably start and close late. We invite people to functions for 9am and start at 10am. I have heard some offer the preposterous excuse that there is something cultural about not paying attention to time. Mr Speaker, let us show that we acknowledge that change has, indeed, come by being punctual to functions. I intend to set a personal example.

The other area of our lives in which we can and should start making a change is the care of the environment.. We are in danger of destroying our blessed country. Ours is a beautiful country. If we claim to love our country, we must take care of the lands, the trees, the water bodies and the animals. They are part of what makes Ghana.

The change we have voted for demands that we adopt better and sustainable sanitation habits, and learn to protect and preserve our environment.

Mr. Speaker, there is one subject on my mind that I wish to put before the House for consideration. I believe, in this 60th year of our nation, that the time is ripe for us to establish consensus on some national issues. It is important for us to have a conversation on how we name things that are of national importance to us all. I speak of the seat of the Presidency and Founder’s’ Day.

In my view, it is not right that, 60 years after independence, these matters are still at large. It does not inure to the dignity of the Ghanaian Republic that such matters have become subject to political football.

I believe we have to settle these matters once and for all, and in due course, I propose we have a national conversation and dialogue to this effect which, hopefully, will end in legislation that will reflect the national consensus.

Mr. Speaker, in a few days’ time, we shall mark the 60th anniversary of the independence of our country. Ebenezer, thus far has the Lord brought us.

Mr. Speaker, we all know where we want Ghana to be, and we are aware we are not where we want to be or ought to be. We also know of the big dreams of our forefathers to build a self-reliant and self-sustaining nation that would take pride of place amongst the comity of nations.

This anniversary provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our past and plan for the future. This is the Ghana we see – a new Ghana.

We will put in place policies that will deliver sustainable growth and cut out corruption.

We will set upon the path to build a Ghana that is not dependent on charity; a Ghana that is able to look after its people through intelligent management of the resources with which it has been endowed.

This is our path, and this path offers a new Ghana.

This Ghana will be defined by integrity, sovereignty, a common ethos, discipline, and shared values. It is one where we aim to be masters of our own destiny, where we mobilise our own resources for the future, breaking the shackles of the “Guggisberg” colonial economy and a mind-set of dependency, bailouts and extraction. It is an economy where we look past commodities to position ourselves in a global marketplace. It is a country where we focus on trade, not aid, a hand-up, not a hand-out. It is a country with a strong private sector. It is a country that recognises the connectedness of its people and economy to those of its neighbours.

This requires a forward-looking vision for our country, enabling us to confront our challenges and embrace our opportunities, not one fastened in the rear-view mirror.

It is a Ghana beyond aid.

Mr. Speaker, thank you, and may God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.

 

 

Ghana – engaged and ready to step up action on HIV

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, was welcomed in Ghana by the country’s senior leadership, which has declared that it is ready to step up engagement on HIV. Mr Sidibé met with the Minister of Health and talked about Ghana leading a revitalized AIDS response in western Africa, where progress urgently needs to be scaled up.

Mr Sidibé talked about the need for a people-centred approach and the importance of taking AIDS out of isolation to create more synergies between HIV and cervical cancer, maternal and child health and sexual and reproductive health programmes. He also talked about the vulnerabilities of adolescent girls, with large numbers still becoming infected with HIV, and poor adherence to treatment, which is compounded by a lack of age-appropriate HIV services to respond to their specific needs.

Ghana will assume the chair of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board in 2017. Mr Sidibé congratulated Ghana on taking up this role and invited the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, to be the first head of state to address the board in 2017. Mr Sidibé also encouraged the President to provide leadership to the regional response to HIV.

In his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley A. Botchway, Mr Sidibé stressed the need to discuss the response to HIV as part of the Economic Community of West African States’ agenda, in order to ensure political commitment so that adequate resources are mobilized to end the AIDS epidemic.

Mr Sidibé also had an opportunity to meet with the First Lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and appointed her the Ambassador for HIV Advocacy in Ghana to Achieve the 90–90–90 Targets by 2020. The First Lady will also use her voice to reduce gender-based violence and increase synergies with cervical cancer and HIV programmes. The First Lady thanked the Executive Director for her appointment and committed to mobilizing all efforts and to supporting the country and the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS to end AIDS by 2030.

Source: http://reliefweb.int/report/ghana/ghana-engaged-and-ready-step-action-hiv

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

New research from WorldRemit- Ghanaians living in the United Arab Emirates are the most generous long distance lovers

With Valentines Day just gone research  by money transfer service WorldRemit shows that Ghanaians living in the United Arab Emirates are the most generous long distance lovers, sending on average $203 (£162) more than usual to their loved ones for Valentine’s Day*.

Following closely behind are Ghanaians who have migrated and are currently living in:

  • Sweden, sending on average $76 (£61) more
  • Germany, sending on average $17 (£13.5) more

Remittances play an important role in the economy of Ghana. According to official WorldBank data, Ghanaians abroad sent almost $5 billion back home to friends and family in 2015.

Alix Murphy, Director of Mobile Partnerships at WorldRemit, said: “Looking at this year’s data we can see that Ghanaians in the UAE, Sweden and Germany are planning ahead and sending more money to their loved ones in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. On average, these groups sent $17 to $203 more for Valentine’s Day compared to the next week to mark the occasion.”

The WorldRemit app lets people send money straight from their smartphone, instead of having to travel to a money transfer agent. Those receiving money– often in developing countries – can collect the funds as Mobile Money, bank transfer, for cash pickup or as a mobile airtime top-up.

WorldRemit’s service is available to senders in 50 countries. It offers transfers to more than 140 destinations across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas. WorldRemit customers send 580,000 transfers every month.

For more information on how to send money back home to the Ghana, please visit https://www.worldremit.com/en/ghana

 

ENDS

 

ABOUT WORLDREMIT

WorldRemit is changing the way people send money.

It’s easy – just open the app or visit the website – no more agents.

  • Transfers to most countries are instant – send money like an instant message.
  • More ways to receive (Mobile Money, bank transfer, cash pickup, and mobile airtime top-up).
  • Available in over 50 countries and 140+ destinations.
  • Backed by Accel Partners and TCV – investors in Facebook, Spotify, Netflix and Slack.

WorldRemit’s global headquarters are in London, UK with regional offices in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

 

* The global data was based on an internal analysis of WorldRemit’s top 10 recipient countries in the months of January and February 2016.

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)

Andy Sarfo Releases ‘Your Love’ For Valentines Season

Love at first sight is something that has happened for years and this is no different for this song. After a short hiatus from music, Simply Andy returns with this Smash Hit, ‘Your Love’. It is very clear to see that Andy is truly an all round entertainer. On this Valentine’s day, he gifts us with this beautiful song.

Please listen, share, download!

‘Your Love’ is out now on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and all digital and streaming platforms.

Listen to the song below:

President Akufo-Addo unveils Ghana @60 logo

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has unveiled the logo for Ghana’s sixty-year anniversary.

At a brief ceremony at the Flagstaff House yesterday, the President reiterated that the celebration which will be under the theme, “Mobilising for Ghana’s future” will be a modest one.

According to him, though such a celebration will come at a cost, he was counting on individual citizens and corporate Ghana to take the bigger responsibility in the cost.

“Marking such an occassion will come at cost but my ambition is to commemorate this occassion with the minimum or no burden at all on the nation”, he stated.

Touching on the logo, the president also said that the “Ghana@60 logo symbolized the diversity and unity of our country and the aspirations of the Ghanaian people for a dignified and prosperous future.”